Representing Royalty: British Monarchs in Contemporary Cinema, 1994-2010

Since the early days of cinema, filmmakers have been intrigued by the lives and loves of British monarchs. The most recent productions by ITV and Netflix show that the fascination with British royalty continues unabated both in Britain and around the world.

This book examines strategies of representing power and the staging of myths of power in seven popular films about British monarchs that were made after the mid-1990s revival of the “royal biopic” genre. By combining approaches from cultural studies with concepts and theories from the humanities, such as film studies and art history, it offers a comprehensive understanding of the cinematic portraits of royalty. In addition, the volume opens up new perspectives on how meaning is generated in films about the monarchy and on the connections between the biographical narratives. The introductory chapter to the case studies reviews the different academic positions on representations of royalty, provides a toolkit for studying the subject and demonstrates ways to approach the films. The book addresses questions of historical context and goes beyond a mere exploration of historical accuracy to reveal the films’ underlying ideological aims.

As such, it makes a distinctive new contribution to the growing body of interdisciplinary work on the British monarchy in general and its cinematic representations in particular. It is the first monograph about representational mechanisms of royal identities and British past(s) in royal films such as Elizabeth, The Queen and The King’s Speech.


Julia Kinzler holds a PhD in English Studies from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Germany. Her doctoral thesis discussed strategies of representing power and the staging of myths of power in cinematic portraits of royalty. In addition to teaching British Cultural Studies at the English Department of FAU, she has published articles and presented papers about monarchy on film, Shakespeare on screen and Victorian discourses on gender and sexuality. Her other research interests include heritage cinema, gender studies, and intermediality and adaptation studies.

"Analysing seven well-known films ranging from The Madness of King George (1994) to The King's Speech (2010), Julia B. Kinzler's monograph presents an innovative and up-to-date account of the revival of the royal biopic in contemporary British cinema. Kinzler convincingly scrutinises the manifold ideological tensions of this genre. Her case studies dissect from a historically informed perspective the national myths surrounding iconic royals like Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II. Her sophisticated theoretical framework brings together recent impulses from the fields of masculinity and (dis)ability studies with established concepts from Lacanian psychoanalysis, semiotics and Foucauldian discourse theory. Kinzler's book demonstrates the critical potential that interdisciplinary approaches offer for film analysis. Proposing that the royal biopic constructs national identity by individualising and humanising British history, Representing Royalty not only deconstructs the stories that these films tell, but equally considers their cinematic language. All in all this book provides a highly informative and compelling study that will be relevant to anyone interested in film, popular historiography and cultural/media studies or theory."

Professor Doris Feldmann Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

"Representing Royalty is a thorough study of the wave of films about British monarchs that have emerged from the British film industry since the 1990s. For Julia Kinzler, a new generation of cinematic representations of British monarchy was born with the release of Shekhar Kapur’s heritage drama, Elizabeth, in 1998. The book analyses seven films, from Kapur’s two films about Elizabeth to The Madness of King George (1994), Mrs Brown (1997), The Queen (2006), The Young Victoria (2009) and The King’s Speech (2010). The book’s aim is to approach the depiction of royalty from a multidisciplinary, cultural studies perspective. It asks how these films that crossed from the twentieth into the twenty-first century re-present monarchy to new (and global) cinema audiences, and also ‘represent’ it in Stuart Hall’s particular sense of the term, referring to the process whereby image and meaning are socially constructed through mediating forms. The book also seeks to trace the art-historical reference points of these films as they remediate traditions of royal portraiture, as well as interact with other media forms such as the news. In its ambitious scope the book covers a large number of different academic approaches to film, including genre (be it heritage cinema or biopic), narrative, gender disability and history. Indeed, one of the book’s strengths is its breadth of reading on royal representations both in cinema and in art history, and it constitutes an important resource book on British heritage cinema. It is a rich contribution to the study of British heritage film and the transformation of figures of power familiar to us through portraiture and history books into screen characters."

Deirdre Gilfedder (Université Paris-Dauphine), Journal of British Cinema and Television. 2019

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-1105-7

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-1105-7

Release Date: 19th June 2018

Pages: 347

Price: £64.99

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